If UNICEF can use the Smurfs to warn people about war, there’s no reason I can’t use other cartoons to warn them about other evile

It’s a typical day in Smurf Village. Clumsy Smurf has fallen down the well again. Brainy Smurf is lecturing Greedy Smurf on the correct way to bake a smurfberry pie. Smurfette is getting a moustache ride from Papa Smurf while a blue movie plays on the telly. Life is smurfy.

Suddenly, the skies above are filled with bombs. The shells are falling faster than Lindsay Lohan’s caloric intake and primed to do more damage than Tara Reid at a bar mitzvah 20 minutes after guzzling a Jäger-and-Quaalude cocktail. The village is in ruins. In fact, it’s far worse than the time Jokey Smurf converted to radical Smurfism and went out in a blaze of present-giving glory. The bodies of Vanity Smurf and Hefty Smurf are slumped against a smurfberry tree, arms around each other, their smurfberries intertwined, engaged in a forbidden embrace, an act of love which only in the final moments of their lives did they have the courage to commit.

The sole survivor of Smurf Village, Baby Smurf, sits among the rubble and cries. No smurfberry pacifier will silence him. No blue arms will cradle him. No one will be there to save him from the clutches of Gargamel and Azrael. He is smurfed. A caption appears on the television screen: “Don’t let war destroy the children’s world.”

That, more or less, is exactly what happens in a new commercial hitting the airwaves in Belgium. The TV ad, created by the humanitarian organization UNICEF, is designed to spread the word about the plight of children in war-torn Africa. However, across the pond, the only thing that the commercial has helped spread is bewildered disbelief, the kind of head-scratching, supermarket-celebrity-mag shock reserved for quickie, Boone’s Farm-fueled pop-princess marriages and ER visits involving has-been Hollywood stars, coked-up rodents and Kenny Chesney. Yikes.

Some say the spot is sacrilege. Others say it’s simply in poor taste. A few cherish it for the work of pop art that it is. Like it or not, this won’t be the last time we will see an unlikely pairing between a cause and a beloved cartoon from the 1980s. Nope. There will be more. After all, if modern Americans aren’t addicted to the orgasmic rush of nostalgia, then they’re at least tickled on the taint by it. VH1, anyone?

In the coming weeks and months, nobody knows for sure which cartoon characters will follow in the small footprints of the Smurfs, but I’m placing my money on the gang from Scooby-Doo. And I’ve got the perfect ad.

Picture this: A little girl in pigtails is skipping rope down the sidewalk. The Mystery Machine pulls up to the curb. It stops. Fred rolls down the driver’s side window. His face is flushed. His hair is matted to his head. His scarf is drenched in sweat. He calls out to the girl. She comes over. Scooby-Doo sits in the passenger seat. Fred asks the girl if she wants to pet his puppy. She says yes. Fred opens the sliding door of the van. The girl enters. The door slams shut. The dog howls, “Scooby-doobie-doo!!!” The screen goes black. These words appear: “Don’t let your children become Scooby snacks. Teach them not to talk to strangers.”

Admit it. If you want to teach the Pampers Pull-Ups set about the dangers posed by pedophiles, there’s no way you could create a more effective ad.

Here’s another one. It’s a cold night at the GI Joe HQ. Duke is about to call it a day. He pulls some magazines out from under the mattress. He turns down the lights, crawls under the covers and picks up the phone. He dials 1-800-BAD-BOYS. On the other end, a man answers. He speaks in a hiss. He says he’s packing a 9mil between his legs. His says friends call him Cobra Commander. Duke bites his lower lip and moans, “Cobraaaaaaaa.” Suddenly, the chameleon-like superspy Zartan appears, seemingly from out of the wood paneling wall next to the bed. With a laugh, he runs out of the room. Time passes. Duke is in handcuffs. He’s at a court marshal. His head is bowed in shame. Sgt. Slaughter stands beside the disgraced soldier. Slaughter says, “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell. It’s the law.” Duke says, “Now I know.” The sergeant replies, “And knowing is half the battle.”

And the list goes on and on. He-Man fits the bill for a spot on the dangers of steroid use. The Transformers can fight drunk driving. The Shirt Tales are perfect for a PSA on STDs. The Thundercats have a lock on spay-and-neuter ads. Think about it. The possibilities are endless.


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